Woman Describes Moment Great White Dragged Her 30ft Underwater
Leeanne Ericson was pulled 30ft beneath the waves and had a chunk ripped out of her leg after she was attacked by a great white shark three years ago.
On that April day in 2017, the 38-year-old was out with friends and family, paddling on San Onofre beach, Southern California, when she was set upon by the powerful killer while her fiancé Dusty Phillips was surfing nearby.
Looking back at that moment, the mother says she remembers the shark's vice-like jaw clamped around her thigh, and while she feared that could have been it for her, she fought back, punching the shark in its eye to break free.
She said: "As soon as it grabbed my leg, I knew what it was. I remember being pulled down and thinking about my kids. And I remember thinking about my fiancé not knowing where I was or what was happening to me.
"My whole hand went into his eye, and I stuck it in as far as I could. It was super soft, it felt like I'd put my hand into a cup of jelly."
Leeanne is one of the shark survivors who will feature on National Geographic's annual 'Sharkfest', a series of shark-based programmes which starts this week.
Describing the lead up to the attack for the channel, Leeanne said she and her husband had noticed a 'panicked' sea lion swimming close by.
She said: "We had noticed a sea lion had surfaced to my left and looked right at us, and I looked at my fiance Dusty and said, 'that sea lion looks a little panicked to me'.
"And right away he dipped back down under. So I started to swim towards the shore."
Just a few seconds later, Leeanne felt a sharp, tight grip on her leg, pulling her beneath the waves.
She said: "I screamed as loud as I could. I remember trying to push the shark off of my leg. I went maybe 25-30 feet. It was deep enough that I could notice the light change, and it was getting darker and darker the further I was going down.
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"It was very calm and peaceful under the water."
According to experts, it's thought that the mum-of-two was attacked by a juvenile great white, which may have mistaken her for a sea lion.
Looking back at that terrifying ordeal, partner Dusty said Leeanne just disappeared.
He said: "As I was paddling, I heard the scream.
"Her scream disappeared under the water. A scream that piercing sends chills up your spine. It was a piercing scream I'd never heard before.
"And it disappeared, mid-scream. I turned around as quick as I could and there wasn't even a ripple. I looked around, waited, waited, waited, but she never surfaced.
"She wasn't anywhere to be found, gone."
Leeanne was then air-lifted to hospital, with paramedics fearful her 'leg would come off' if they tried to lift her.
Following the attack, and numerous operations, she now has no hamstring, glutes or quads in one leg, and Leeanne had to teach herself to walk again.
But looking back, Dusty said he was terrified he might have lost her for good, saying: "She was a completely grey colour that looked like she was already dead. I never told her I'd loved her until then."
His timing didn't go unnoticed by Leeanne, who said: "I was thinking, 'of all the times, this is the time you picked to tell me you love me?' But at least if I had died I would have heard it."
Featured Image Credit: ABC News/Leanne Ericson